Senate Finance Committee Reports Out S. 1, the Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 200
After years of debating the issue, last Thursday evening the Senate Finance Committee reported out a $400 billion package dealing with prescription drugs and Medicare reform. The final vote was a strong 16 to 5.
In addition to providing a drug benefit to Medicare beneficaries, the bill also includes a provision limiting geographic indicies, a provision which has been :scored at $6.5 billion over ten years.
Strong regulatory relief provisions are also contained in the bill that reflect much of MERFA, legislation that was offered in the last Congress and strongly supported by the American Medical Association.
Another positive provision in the bill includes a requirement that a carrier medical director be established in each state.
Also of note, Senator Kyle (R, AZ) offered an amendment that would provide positive physician updates for 2004 and 2005, by adopting MedPAC's recommendations regarding the physician reimbursements as a two-year nation-wide demonsration project. Senator Kyle did withdraw the amendment without a vote in an attempt to keep the issue alive for this session.
S. 1 would require Medicare patients to pay a $35 monthly premium and a $275 yearly deductible before government subsidy begins. The government would then cover half the cost of their medicine, to a maximum of $4,500 per year. Once a patient's prescription costs reach $4500, the coverage would stop unless the total exceeds $5800. At that point, 'catastrophic' coverage would begin again which would pay 90% of additional costs. [return to top]